And as he made his lament, sleep came upon him, and in his vision there seemed to him that the god stood over him and bade him be of good heart: “You will suffer nothing untoward if you confront the Arabian host; for I will send you allies.” He trusted in this dream, and , taking with him such of the Egyptians as would follow him, he pitched his camp in Pelusium, for that was where the enemy were to invade. There followed him not one of the warriors, but the shopkeepers and handworkers and fellows from the marketplace. But when their enemies came, there spread out against, at nightfall, field mice, which gnawed their quivers through, and through, too, the bows themselves and the handles of their shields, so that on the next day they fled, defenseless, and many of them fell. So nowadays this king stands there, in stone, in the temple of Hephaestus, in his hand he holds a mouse, and he speaks these words through the inscription that is there: “Look on me, all of you, and be pious.”(193)
We thought we had ditched the wolf. Michael was doing an exceptional job driving, until he smashed the front tire into a large boulder. The explosion was awful and sent the truck hurtling into the ditch. Everything went blank for a second, a different blank then the empty space though, just nothing. Then I was being pulled out and tossed against the side of the truck.
“Goddammit,” Commander Daniels screamed at his men crowding around the idling truck. “Fucking greenhorn limb-dicks! Keep the Humvee on the fucking road, that’s all you had to do.
“I’m sorry Sir,” Michael said. “B-road, that rock came out of nowhere. Fucking huge, don’t know how maintenance missed it.”
“Don’t know how you missed it.” The Commander countered. “Nah it’s fine, get that spare on there, move it! It could be on us in a second. One of you, what’s your names again soldiers?”
“Smith,” said Howdy.
“Hopsin,” said Shaky legs.
“Smith,” the Commander said, “help Michael here change the tire. Watch your six. First sign of that motherfucker you pound the vehicle with your weapon, you understand that? Just pound, and you don’t fucking leave Michael’s side until the tire is fucking changed, got it?”
“Yessir,” Smith said.
“Good boy,” the Commander said. “You’re all good boys. Now get under there and fix that tire.” The two men grabbed the tire and jack off the back and went diving under the front of Humvee. “Hopsin grab that bastard and toss him back in and take the wheel.” Hopsin hesitated for a minute, but then snatched me up and threw me in. There was more rumbling and yelling outside. Commander and Hopsin jumped back in.
The Commander was busy in the passenger seat, checking his weapon, ammo, and every other thing he could think of to touch or check. “Men, we’re gonna sit tight, all right? Hopsin, that thing shows up I want you to take defensive position at the door, understand? It gets close enough you’re gonna hop back in and we’re going to make a go for it, no matter what state were in. This thing can roll on three for a while.”
Hopsin didn’t say anything, but the Commander smashed a button on his dash and began speaking. “Headquarters, CO of Goon Squad, with an update.”
“Go ahead Goon Squad.”
“Sir, the mission remains critical. I repeat critical. Heavy Losses. Four units remain. Package Two is secure.”
“Copy that Goon Squad. Repeat. Package Two is secure.”
“That’s correct headquarters. Package two is secure.”
“And Package One, Commander?”
“Proceed to repair front tire and head to rove commander and wait for relief.”
“ETA on that relief there headquarters?”
“42 mins, hold tight.”
The Commander slammed the button. “You hear that shit, Hopsin? Hold tight. You remember that when you’re back at the bunk tonight. Sipping on a cold one, acting tough with the other squads. When the shit’s really thick, all you’re gonna get is a hold tight–” A loud banging came from the front side of the vehicle.
“Motherfucker,” the Commander said. “Hopsin get out here and see what he’s banging about.”
It was all muffled voices. The Commander shifted around obviously irritated, trying to get an eye around the vehicle. It was still too dark to see, especially now that everything was covered in dirt and blood. “Fucking unbelievable.”
Hopsin ripped the door open and dove in. “Smith has eyes on it. A flicker–”
“A flicker?” the Commander interrupted. “What the fuck does that mean? Did you see anything Hopsin?”
“How far are they on the tire.”
“The got the old one off.”
“Get out there and hold that fucking door. Tell them to move fast, keep their fingers off the trigger, hop back in, when they’re done, or before, you got me?”
“I got you Sir,” Hopsin said.
“You’ll take the wheel Hopsin?” He asked again, unsure for some reason.
Hopsin looked like he wanted to say no, but he grimaced, nodded, and jumped back out of the truck. He kept the door open and we could hear him barking orders at the other. “Hurry up!” His head came back in the door. “Smith says he’s seen the flicker again?”
“What the fuck is a flicker?!” The Commander roared. Before Hopsin could explain the deepest, bluest, wolf howl ever filled the area. It sounded like it was right on top of us, and everyone went scrambling down. Hopsin went bolting from the door, and I could hear the two at the tire as they crawled underneath the front of the truck.
The first howl was so long, it rang slicing through the stale morning air, bouncing off all the trees. Worn out by fright at this point, and frankly just a little sick of running, I took the whole thing in with a new coldness.
The way I saw it the monster must be getting full after all that. And I don’t know about you, but if I do a lot of running or hard work I really start to lose my appetite. Now this thing had just run ten miles or so. It had been running around all night for that matter, chopping trees and all that, supernatural hell beast or not, it had to be getting tired.
The howls kept coming. The Commander began hopping up and down from his open roof to the floor. The whole time his giant rifle was pointed right in my direction. Up and down. Up and down. He mumbled to himself. “Spooky shit. Should never have signed on for this. Fuck the money. Noting worth this shit.” Stuff like that.
Everything went real quiet for a second. The Commander got stuck on a loop of oh shits. I hugged the bottom of the Humvee, and appreciated having some level of protection in its steel chambers. I couldn’t see the wolf but I felt him in a flood of fear and dread. Rifle fire erupted and it sent the commander into a spasm of rage. He leapt from his seat on to the roof and began firing. Hot, spent shells came pouring back down the hole.
The chaos lasted for a minute or two, and then the commander came crashing back into the vehicle and gripped the floor. The firing stopped a moment later, and a low rumble began from behind the vehicle. We could hear it breathing, raspy, tired, angry.
Like I said, I have to admit I am a bit confused by my own lack of hysterics at this point. Maybe it was the drug roller coaster? I felt the death and horror of the creature pressing all around me, but at the same time I felt a sort of detachment I can’t really explain. I think it has to do with a realization which was settling in, that even if I escaped one torture, say the Muse, that another torture, the Wolf awaited. After that men with guns, and after that, well isn’t that enough?
The Commander was an endless rap of contradictions. “I’ll kill the fucking thing. We’re dead. Ill rip its fucking eyeballs out and skull fuck its head. I just want to go back to Laura. Fucking tear his throat out when he gets to me!”
He dove into the back seat. “Listen man,” he whispered. “We’re in this together now. You understand? We got to work together. Here.” He handed me a shiny pistol. My first instinct was to hand it back. I’m not overly very familiar with guns, and I figured the other fellas hadn’t down too well in any case, and they had giant rifles. Another howl squashed any idea of giving it back though.
“Here’s an extra magazine,” he said. “You know how to use that thing?”
“Sort of,” I said.
“Simple cock it, and let it rip. There’s a release on the left side there. Drop it when you’re out, slap the other one it. If you get the chance, have at it. I can’t believe this bullshit.”
“Neither can I,” I said.
A random burst of rifle fire made us both dive back down. “Fuck this shit,” the Commander moaned. “I make it out of this, I’m done Lord. I promise no more of this spooky shit, I swear. I knew I was wrong for this. Dammit! I’ll kill this fucking thing first for what he did to my men!” He hopped back to his seat and started looking out the window. “You see that fucking thing?”
“No,” I said, head planted firmly against the floor.
“Fucking impossible,” the Commander said. “Thing’s a good damn shadow. Moves fast you know, like a goddamn ballerina. Fuck this shit! I won’t let it get me like this, cowering in the rig. Fuck this. I can’t let my men die like this.” He made a move for the door.
“Wait!” I screamed. “Don’t go out there! It’ll kill you for sure. Maybe it’s done, who knows?”
“Damn shameful,” he said. “ I know you’re just a civi, not built for this work. But damn that is a cowardly worldview–”
“Hold on, how long until backup gets here?”
He looked at his watch. “About thirty minutes, if that ETA is still solid.”
That seemed like an impossibility. It had only been ten minutes. It’d felt like a lifetime.
“Nope,” the Commander said. “Can’t do it man. Goon squad is ride or die. Good luck to you sir. Hold tight!” He jumped from the door and I heard him scuffle off.
I was all alone. Things were really quiet. The pressure and anxiety, finally started to come, especially the longer I stayed in the truck. I didn’t hear any shooting though and the time just kept ticking by. I thought about all options. Wait here for backup to arrive or take my chances running in the woods. The more I thought about it running sounded like the best option. Hopefully I could run, hide, and find somewhere to sleep, and wake up back on the other side.
I got up off the floor and crawled into the Commanders spot to take a look around. There was nothing, just dark early morning forest. It all looked so serene and peaceful, waiting for pleasant campers with picnic baskets and tents. Maybe the thing had given up?
I waited for a time, just sort of bummed out and apathetic. I even tried to fall asleep, slip through the space, back to my time, but it didn’t work. I was stuck over there it seemed, for now.
I decided to make a run for it. Carefully I opened the door, and sort of slide through the small gap like slime, and laid on the ground. I got sight of one man, torn in two laying on the other side of the vehicle, sort of resembled Howdy. His two halves were separated by a clear view of the forest and I saw no sign of anyone else.
I crawled around to the other side and everything seemed clear. I crouched there for a while listening for the slightest sound. There was nothing and so I grit my teeth and went booking it for the forest.
The wolf tackled me like a linebacker. I hit the ground with a mechanical force. A series of cracks and pops from my body told me parts, important parts, had just been broken. The wolf flipped me over, sniffed and howled right in my face.
I kept my eyes closed though, so all I could sense was its hard hands working over my face. Hot drool dripped and sizzled on my skin, with painful acidity. I screamed and one of its wretched claws was shoved into my lips, bashing my gums, in an attempt to shush me. “Stopppppp,” it ordered.
I tried to shake my head free, but it held on even tighter, seizing and slicing into my jaw. “Stoopppp, nowwwww,” it ordered. “Where man gun?”
I tried to scream again, but now I couldn’t even open my mouth. “Where man gun?” It asked again.
It started to become difficult to breathe. Panic forced my eyes open. I felt so small with this thing straddling me. It’s large head, hair slicked back and caked in gore, swung from left to right as it smelled the air. Everything was so large and lean on the creature. It was like having a truckload of concrete sitting on top of you. There was nothing I could do.
“Get off him!” A voice screamed. The thing jumped up and spun around. I didn’t wait a second, but scrambled behind a tree to watch.
The Commander pointed his rifle at the wolf, a grenade in his other hand. “Look at you! You’re one ugly bastard, aren’t you?”
The wolf stood there, huffing and buffing. His breathing was raspy and gurgling, and his belly hung distended. He had over eaten. He didn’t seem at all afraid of the rifle though.
“Get on the fucking ground!” The Commander ordered. “Now!”
The thing just stood there grunting, staring right at the Captain. “Get the fuck down now!” The Commander yelled. But again there was no movement. “I’m not going tell you again, get down!”
The Beast took one step and the Commander let off with a round of shots. They tore through the thing with a black grey burst, but it all sucked right back into it on reverse.
The Commander saw that and threw his weapon, pulled the pin on the grenade and charged the creature.
The wolf took a giant leap and came down on him hard. It sounded like a large branch being snapped in half. The creature was all over him. The were growls and snarls mixed with the Commanders screams. I realized this was the time to run, but right as I was about to break off, there was large explosion and burst of reddish blackness which clouded the scene. Through it, I saw Pete coming up deep from the woods and he held a rifle.
Pete crawled up on the two of them quietly. Besides the wooden leg which remained extended back, he moved like a cat, stalking his prey. You could tell he was fascinated by seeing the wolf feeding in this state. His eyes bulged from his head, and he licked his lips.
I should have ran, I recognize that in hindsight. The whole thing played out like a movie. The thing that was the Wolf and Lt. Daniels swirled like a tornado on the spot, slowly reassembling into something like the wolf and sections of the commander.
Pete crept up on the monstrosity as it continued to feed. I couldn’t believe it but right as he got close he raised his weapon like he was going to shoot the wolf. I won’t lie, after everything he had put me through, I felt no compulsion to save him.
He crept up so slow and when he was right up on it he took aim, and let loose with his rifle. Now from the way he shot I could tell he didn’t have very much experience with shooting modern weapons. He got stuck squeezing the automatic and a dozen or more shots tore recently and currently reassembling wolf right in half, from the chest up. The force also knocked Pete down (the peg leg didn’t help) and left him shooting into the air.
The wolf made the most awful scream and was now floating in two parts. The top half went lunging for Pete. The bottom half tried to follow it, and do that coagulating cloud thing, but the Commander sat up, head half ripped off and gripped on to the legs.
Pete was able to stop firing right as the thing fell and snatched on to his own leg. He quickly took aim and start blasting the thing in the face. Shot went everywhere though. The monster head exploded, but the bullets continued on right through the top half of the monster, and into the Commander himself. Pete fused with the powerful rifle and just kept firing.
The thing finally let got of Pete’s leg and tried to roll back to its own legs, but was chopped down in the endless stream of fire. The monster kept rolling through it but finally stopped, right as the rifle ran out. Pete kept the rifle pointed at the creature for a minute. Frozen. Like gravity finally turned on the different bubbles of wolf went falling to the ground, like black water colors, splattered on a flat canvas, with little chunks, and spiky patches here and there.
I thought about running again. Didn’t seem to be much of a threat now that the wolf was splattered. I realized I was gripping the pistol in my hand. It had warmed in the mean time. I wondered if Pete had another magazine and would come hunting me down, the broken Fire Attender Oath and all that.
I thought about all the walking, and the path we had taken from the Pine Forgetting Forrest, to when I met up with Pete. I wondered if I could find my way back. I looked around the large forest, as an example, and realized I was totally lost. There was nowhere to run. More than anything, I wondered, where was that fucking Muse?